Friday, 2 March 2012

EU Commissioner warns Malta against bird trapping

Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik has informed the Malta government that there is no reason to allow bird trapping to continue in Malta and threatened to take the country back in front of the European Court of Justice if it isn’t stopped.

Malta has two months to reply to his Reasoned Opinion. A failure to comply means the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Song birds in cages are used as decoys
The Commission explained that in Europe, most wild birds are protected under the Birds Directive, and trapping with large-scale or non-selective methods of capture such as nets is generally prohibited and may only be legally practised under a derogation from the Directive. Such exceptions may only be granted if there is no viable alternative, if the Member State respects the strict conditions and requirements laid down in Article 9 of the Directive, and if it can prove to the Commission that it has done so.

In June 2011 the Commission sent Malta a letter of formal notice, in which it aired its concern regarding the incorrect application of derogations allowing bird trapping. The Commission confirmed that Malta had failed to submit sufficient evidence to prove that its trapping derogations respected all the necessary conditions of the Directive. It mentioned in particular the rules relating to “ensuring only small numbers of birds are captured”; “selective targeting of the species concerned by the derogation”, and “strict supervision of trapping conditions.”

In its reply the Maltese Government refuted the Commission's claims and insisted that the conditions for the application of the derogation were met. In 2011 Malta also changed the derogation so that it applied to only one species, the Song Thrush. However, the Commission is still of the opinion that Malta has failed to produce satisfactory supporting evidence and has applied the derogations incorrectly.

The Malta Government continues to argue against the claims, saying it will reply to the Reasoned Opinion and will also continue to engage in discussions with the Commission.